Brassed Off

Date 7th April 2022
Society Uckfield Theatre Guild
Venue Civic Centre Uckfield
Type of Production Play
Director Emma Creffield
Musical Director Nick Morris
Written By Paul Allen

Report

Author: Anne Lawson

This play was unusual in that the four male characters were key members of a colliery brass band and the Uckfield Concert Brass collaborated with the group to take on this starring role. Seated at front of stage, dressed in their blue and black uniforms, stand covers marked GCB, and under the baton and expert on marching band competitions, Nick Morris led this large band of Cornets, Horns, Euphonium and Baritones, Trombones, Basses and Percussion that kept us toe tapping to ‘The William Tell Overture’, ‘The Floral Dance’, ‘Rodrigo’s Concerto Aranjuez’, and a stirring ‘Jerusalem’ amongst other pieces, with a tear-jerking finale of ‘Land of Hope and Glory’.

Action takes place circa 1994 in Grimley, Yorkshire where accountants see there is more money in the colliery being shut down even after a redundancy pay out but will leave a dying town, 1200 job losses and of their beloved brass band under the leadership of Danny - who is sadly stricken with a coal mining disease. The story is related through his grandson, football mad Shane. The emotionally charged script effects one young family with food shortage, loss of possessions and general despair leading to self-harm and separation. Containing some strong earthy language and scenes of a sexual nature, controlled merriness, the actors kept their Yorkshire accents and pace going well and although a poignant subject there was also humour. The romance element causes upset. Born in the town, Gloria rekindles a childhood relationship with always late Andy, having arrived back in a management capacity. She is allowed to join the band as a Flugel Horn player, comes good and raises the cash to get the band to The Royal Albert Hall to win the championship.

The venue was transformed by an imaginative creative team and showed a red brick back drop – a reminder of a typical end of terrace with a corner inset as Phil and Sandra’s sitting room containing table and chairs, TV, and children’s’ toys. Projected onto the wall was a reminder that we were in a colliery town with a silhouetted towering structure. With use of large props scenes were changed – an outside bench, a moveable set of lockers in shower area,  Gloria’s bed, hospital bed with drip, a streetlamp, Other large props used were the baby’s buggy, snooker cues, instruments, a supermarket trolley, and Danny’s bicycle. Militant wives held banners and chanted, and again a large team of helpers obtained and manoeuvred these with care. Effective use of the exits and entrances for the band at side of stage, through the central aisle and played a beautiful rendition of ‘Danny Boy’ from the main foyer.

Costumes were excellent with considerable attention to detail – initialled orange safety gear, helmets with torches, again good band uniforms, smart suit for Gloria, great football strip, nurses’ uniforms, scary bailiffs in black.

Most commendable and sustained performances from Nigel Bland as dying band leader Danny, Robin Creffield as Phil dealing with his despair supported by his loving but frustrated wife Sandra played by Daisy-Anne Mayhew. Spike Mayhew, a strong character as Jim was supported by Sharon Gladman as his wife Rita – caring towards Sandra with groceries.  Her friend V – Vera a militant wife doing her bit was played by Penny Heath and paired with Harry, third of the work mates played by Daniel Card. And always late on parade unattached Andy was Mark Sherlock. Bethany Sherlock as business like Gloria was his love interest. A lovely caring, always questioning performance from Carrie-Ann Schless as the young Shane together with her younger brother confident Sam Morris as Craig and a definite ‘ah’ factor performance from Eliza Green as Melody. Together with ensemble, good sound and lighting support from technical, stage crew, Director Emma’s attention to detail, active movement and band collaboration created an enjoyable opening night experience.

Thanks to Front of House - was privileged to be first ‘zap’ of the new ticketing system!